The young people of Congregation Har Shalom got a head start on Hanukkah during a presentation Thursday at Four Corners
Health Care Center.
A couple of the residents said they didn't know anything about Hanukkah," said Marla Stills, one of the adult leaders
of the group, called Ruach Tovah or Good Spirit. They said it was nice to learn something new about how other people
celebrate the holidays."
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Friday.
The holiday commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, a small band of faithful Jews, against the Syrians, one of the
mightiest armies on Earth, in the second century B.C. The Jews found only one day's worth of ritually purified olive
oil to light the menorah after reclaiming the Temple, and it would take eight days to purify more. Miraculously, once
lit, the oil burned for eight days.
One observance of Hanukkah is to light one additional candle in the menorah each of the eight days of the holiday, with
all eight candles lit on the final day.
This is really a minor Jewish holiday," Stills said, but because of its close proximity to Christmas, it has become
more widely known for people who aren't Jewish."
The kids, ranging in age from first through fifth grade, meet every week to learn about and celebrate Jewish holidays
and learn Hebrew and Jewish studies, said Stills, who teaches the class with Eli Herb and calls it a bit like a
one-room schoolhouse." On Thursday, each student gave a short talk about an aspect of Hanukkah, and they lit candles in
the menorah and sang Hanukkah songs.
We also served potato latkes and applesauce," Stills said. Latkes are fried in oil, which represents the miracle of
the oil lasting eight days."
While not all families give gifts to children during Hanukkah, Stills and her husband give some.
In our family, kids do get presents on several nights," she said, but we also do Tzedekah, or charitable giving, and
one night we go out and purchase gifts for a needy family."
While Hanukkah has nothing to do with Christmas, the holidays do share one thing.
It's a beautiful tradition, bringing light into homes at this dark period of the year," Stills said.